Rebecca Lesses

Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religion
School: School of Humanities and Sciences

Letters from Gittel (Falkon) Kagan of Moscow, U.S.S.R., to her nephew, Mark Falcon Lesses, of Boston, Massachusetts.

[Letter written in Russian: this is the English translation also found in the same envelope.]

Moskow, December 9, 1934.
My Dear Nephew Markus,

A few days ago I received a letter from my brother, your uncle, M. Falcon, from Libau, Latvia. He writes that he had news from you, the children of my dear, beloved brother Jacob, whose memory I will always cherish. The news brought to me again a wave of memories about your father and I cried for days and days thinking of him.

Our childhood days were spent together and we were inseparable and only his departure for America tore us apart. For years I was losing contact with him and you. Many a time I asked my relatives about him. I had a strong premonition that something terrible happened to him, but nobody ever told me anything. They wanted to keep me in ignorance because of my poor health and weak heart. But because of no news from him I began to demand the truth and they told me.

I do not know whether you are familiar with the early life of your dear father.
We lost our mother when we were young children. Our father married again and we three children – my brothers Mote, Jacob and I were brought up by our grandmother. My older brother Mote went to Libau and your father and I were left to care for one another and loved each other dearly. Although we have been away from one another many, many years, the love and tender memory of him will never diminish.

Now I want to think that because you remembered your relatives, I feel somewhat consoled. I feel that you honor the memory of your father. I feel sure that you, his children are very nice and good people and that you live your lives honorably.

For over 30 years my husband, my children and I lived in Baku (Caucasia) and it is only a few years since we moved to Moskow. The reason is that our children all had their education in Moskow colleges and settled here to live.

My son Solomon is an Electrical Engineer and is working in one of our largest factories at his specialty. He is a very clever man. His wife is also an electrical engineer- they were in the same school together and got married. They have a beautiful daughter Rosochka (Rose) 2 years old.

My older daughter Bronia studied at the Commercial Institute, but didn’t finish. Her husband is a very nice man and is chief accountant in one of the Gov. plants.

My younger daughter Ania, I think that you both are about the same age, my dear Markus, is an attorney. Besides that she completed a course in economy and is now in one of the newly built factories as an engineer-economist. Her husband is also an attorney, but is studying again and is about to become an engineer-mechanic. My Ania has two dear boys (twins) 5 years old named Felix and Vovick (Bob). Bronia has one child – a boy Loena (Leonard, I think,-Transl.), 12 years of age; a very clever child.

We all live fairly well considering. I suppose that you know that it is not easy to get along in Russia, but at the same time our lives are full of interest, and higher culture. My husband and I live with Ania in one apartment. My husband gets a small pension and the children help out a little. Besides my brother sends in something once in a while and that's how we get along.

My dear Markus, I would be very happy if you could come to U.S.S.R. for a visit. It doesn’t cost much, and I am very anxious to see you.

Meanwhile, please, do me a great favor. Write to me about your dear father. How he lived, when did he get sick, what was the nature of his illness and the date of his death. If you have any photographs of him, please send to me.
Write in detail how you, your dear mother and your sister are getting along. You are now the only ones that is left as a link with my brother.

Best and sincerest regards to your own family, the family of your sister, and to your mother.

Please write and bring a little sunshine into my life.

Your Aunt Gittel Kagan

My Address: M. Z. Kagan, Bolshaya Polanka, 37, suite 1, Moskow, 17, U.S.S.R.

[address also given in Russian]

P.S. You can write to me in Russian or Jewish as is convenient to you.


Another letter is dated: Moscow, 17/9/35, and is accompanied in the envelope by the following translation:

Dear Nephew,

Your letter with the picture we received, and we were very glad to hear from you. Your son looks like an angel. I hope you will have a lot of pleasure from him.

Dear, time flies and see it’s already a few months [I] did not write. I beg your pardon not answering: My daughter Anna had whooping cough and as soon as she got better I left Moscow for a summer resort and I, myself, am not so well – heart trouble, stomach, bladder, etc. At present time I’m suffering with stomach trouble. It’s already a week I'm staying in bed. I wanted to take pictures with my husband, but – as you see – always and have no desire and spirit to do so.

Dear, don’t be sorry for not answering so quick and the same thing in the future in case I don’t answer so quick, so don’t feel bad about it. I’m with you with all my thoughts, heart and feelings and wish all the luck in life.

I would like to have a picture of you and your wife, and your sister with her family. We have a great number of Americans as tourists; maybe you will some day come over here.

Your letters you may write in English, because my son Solomon knows English.

When you will answer this letter, I want you to write me all about you in detail.

The 14th of Nov. we will have a family celebration. 40 years since I was married. I hope you too will celebrate 40 years of your marriage in happiness and good health.

My heartiest greetings to your wife, your son and your sister, my dear niece and her family.

My heartiest greetings to all of you from all of us

Your aunt

RITA [I presume this is a typographical error for Gita]


Moscow Bolsaya
Polyanka 7 #37 SU-1
Mr. M. J. Kagan


A letter from my great-great-aunt Gita Kagan to her nephew, my grandfather, Mark Falcon Lesses, written in Russian, and translated by Masha Goldmann (a cousin-by-marriage who lives in Israel), whom I met at the Israeli National Library in Jerusalem. She did the translation in June, 2012.

Moscow, 23/IX 36 (September 23, 1936)

My dear nephew - greetings to you and your wife and your glorious little son!

Thank you very much for the letter I received recently. In that letter you wrote me only a couple of words - why I did not answer your previous letter - but for these few words I am very grateful to you, because these few lines have shown me that in your heart you truly have sincere friendly affection for me and want to keep our relationship. I am happy to answer you, and, like all of us, my husband and my kids, we always would like to get from you only the best and joyful news about you and your lovely family. On your very first letter I responded, so we certainly have received it. I am very sorry that I did not respond to your second letter immediately. We left Moscow for the dacha for almost four months. Our dacha is 19 kilometers from Moscow; it is linked to Moscow by electric trains. Living outside Moscow and poor health knocked me out of a rut very much, and I have in my mind the need to answer your letter quite a long time (ago) still faced with the fact of my debt to you.

I promise to be more accurate in future and write you regularly upon receipt of your letters.

In last months my brother and your uncle Falcon from Libau strongly requested the possibility of my husband's and my entry to Libau for two months visit. He sent us a visa already and my husband and I, we'll maybe go to Libau. I have not seen your uncle from Libau since World War I, since the year 1915. Now he is very old and weak. Recently, my husband's sister wrote us that he is seriously ill. Your uncle in his letters writes nothing about himself and recently he writes to us very rarely (not more than once a month) and very very tersely. You can realize of course, my dear Mark, that we are not young anymore, and all sorts of diseases, short letters, or not receiving them in time causes morbid anxiety in the heart.

My own health is poor, I already wrote you about it. My husband also does not feel well. But you're a doctor yourself so you probably say to your patients: what is aging - it is getting decrepit and you cannot put a new heart in the body.

You wrote us that one of your hospital nurses would visit Moscow in the summer. But nobody visited us. Maybe she did not come at all.

My children have no special news. They are all as usual.

I still have a great desire to see you, my dear nephew, personally. I would like to look at you, to hug and to kiss you.

I am looking at my grandchildren, they are cousins to each other and they are really close to each other. Though they are still small, but they instinctively feel their proximity and show it. You, my dear nephew, are in the same relationship to my children, but unfortunately you are separated by the ocean and by many years of living in different hemispheres. I would like to wish that no ocean or hemisphere or even different languages would be a barrier for contact with you.

The way from America to Moscow was recently laid by our pilot Levandovsky. I would like this way to connect our two hemispheres as quickly as possible, so I could see all of you.

Once again I send my very best wishes to you, your wife and son. Also, I send my sincere greetings to your mother, father, and brother. I welcome Gertrude with her family. Why does she never write anything?

Truly yours,

Aunt Gita Kagan

My husband, our children and grandchildren send you their greetings and kisses. Our photos I'll send somehow. I still hold onto the photographs because I hope to look better but to tell you honestly my hopes have not come true yet.


Another letter is dated: 7 April 1937, but is also not translated. Enclosed with it is a small photograph with the date 1934 on the back. Masha Goldmann also kindly translated this letter from Russian to English.

April 7, 1937

Dear Mark,

I received your letter from March 2 this year on the days of Pesach, when I was very busy because of the holidays. Although I did not have time to respond to you immediately I was very happy to hear about the birth of your son. We congratulate you and your lovely wife Helen - raise your kids only for joy and never know sorrow - we wish you all a joyful and happy life.

The Pesach holidays my husband and I spent pretty well, our children did not interfere, though they do not keep it. If you keep holidays - I also congratulate you with Pesach. My husband and I had a great desire to visit Uncle Falcon, but this unfortunately was not possible. How and where do you plan to spend this summer? How is Helen, has she recovered? How is your newborn son? What is his name? How is the oldest one?

News about you and your family pleased me extremely; I am glad to hear and to know about you.

My son has now graduated from a second institute. In 1922 he graduated and obtained his first diploma of Electrical Engineer. In order to expand his professional opportunities, he graduated from another institute and obtained a second diploma of Mechanical Engineer.

My son-in-law also graduated from an institute and obtained a diploma of Technological Engineer.

I personally regret that none of my children chose to become a doctor.

I wonder why your sister and my niece Gertrude never wrote me - isn't she interested in her father's relatives at all?

Per your request I am sending you a random homemade photo. There you can see me, my husband, and our youngest daughter Anna, who is working as an economist. The photo was cut off from a big group one that you would generally not be interested in.

Dear Mark, you write that as physician you cannot help me at a distance. I regret it very much, I would probably be your faithful and diligent patient.

Is there any hope for our meeting, will you visit us one day?

I am finishing my letter by wishing you all the best. Please write, do not forget about us.

Loving you and your family,

Aunt Gita

Sincere regards from my husband and children to you and your family.